“Balance of Power”
The use of magic as a weapon changes the user as well as the target. Every use must be considered and controlled, because every weapon has a recoil.
“Who have you run from?” Gwenna’s gentle young voice was like rain over stone. “Where do you live?”
“Malain. Mistress Malain.”
“What name does she call you?”
“Creature. Fool. Monster. Beast. Slave.”
“These are not names. Mistress Malain is a name. Gwenna is a name, and Toby. Do you understand ‘names’?”
The Creature nodded.
“Have you a name? In your heart? Please tell it to us.” Gwenna smiled with pink lips and pearly teeth, with eyes the color of fall honey.
“…Shisha.” When neither Toby nor Gwenna laughed, Shisha spoke again. “Die, me. Or swim. Water. Want…water.” She sat up, her face level with Gwenna’s, but turned toward the stream.
“Look at me, dear one.” The Creature, startled by Gwenna’s tone and words, did look at her. “You’ve been Taken.” Gwenna spoke to Shisha as she had never been spoken to before: spirit to spirit, one intelligence to another. “You’ve been Changed and Fixed into human form, and you can neither return to the water nor drown in it.”
Shisha’s head cocked and her eyes went blank with listening. Rosy eyelids lowered as the tones of a tin whistle eased down into human hearing. She made a gurgling sound, and gnashed her teeth. She rose, pulled by a thread of tin-filtered breath.
“Toby….” Gwenna raised one milky arm.
Toby shouldered a pack. He wrapped Gwenna in the blanket beneath her, strapped it into a harness, and shouldered her as if she were another pack. Her fair face rested cheek-to-cheek with his tan one, the froth of her flaxen hair next to his chestnut braids. Her spindly arms draped over his brawny shoulders, and they followed the hapless Creature back to Mistress Malain, who had Made her.